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Rock & Poll: Can Rock Change The World?

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Contributor:
Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd


"If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

Emma Goldman (1869-1940). Radical, anarchist, feminist. Imprisoned and deported.


If there’s one thing we know about rock stars it’s that they’re not afraid to make a noise. Musicians have been using their talents to spread emotive political messages since politics began. Transcending barriers of age, sex, religion, class, wealth, time, and geography, music has the osmotic power of reaching out from the brightest stages, to the darkest nooks. Everyone knows the John Lennon classic “Imagine”, Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”, and Bob Marley getting us to “Get up, Stand up”. But what about the artists of today? What messages are out there? Who’s listening… and what’s happening?

Remember the Live 8 concerts in 2005? Rich, powerful, influential musicians pushing their weight around didn’t get much bigger than that. The cause? End senseless suffering and poverty in third-world countries. Bob Geldof (from The Boomtown Rats and star of Pink Floyd‘s “The Wall”), Bono (U2), Richard Curtis (New Zealand born screenwriter), Harvey Goldsmith (music promoter), Midge Ure (singer/songwriter), and John Kennedy (Chairman and Chief Executive of the federation which represents the recording industry worldwide - the IFPI) made a difference. Bob Geldof basically explained that if you kick up a big enough stink, in the end, people will give you what you want just to shut you up. And you can change the world. Eight concerts were performed throughout Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Nothing less than the best and most popular musicians of our time participated, in order to draw maximum attention and interest. The result? 3 billion people tuned in to watch on TV. 31 million people sent texts or emails in support. 120 million joined the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. And the world leaders promised to more than double aid by 2010 and cancelled 100% of multilateral debt for some of the poorest places on earth. Admittedly, progress has lagged a bit since then, but at least it has began. In “Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through” Meatloaf sings “the angels had guitars even before they had wings.” I can’t argue with that.

On a lesser scale, System of a Down singer and songwriter, Serj Tankian (who recently acquired New Zealand citizenship), started the non-profit group “Axis of Justice” with Tom Morello, (sometimes known as The Night Watchman), from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Focused on building working relationships between musicians, fans, and grassroots political organisations, Axis of Justice aims to address issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice through activism and education. From their website (www.axisofjustice.org) you can access lists of other politically vocal bands and musicians (check it out - there are a lot!) and find out about other organisations that promote politics and activism through music. Personally dedicated, Morello and Tankian host a weekly radio show* which combines a passion for music with politics, activism, discussion, and interviews. Offering commentary on the political messages behind popular songs, rock and punk takes on a deeper meaning. Stop listening to just the noise and start listening to the voice.

Closer to home, the Parihaka Peace Festival in Taranaki is right around the corner. Held over three days during the second weekend of January 09, singers, songwriters, artists, healers, speakers, poets, and more will come together under the theme “Peace, Justice, and Eco-Responsibility.” Apart from the great bands, good food, cool people, and wicked dance, you can feed your mind and learn more about making a difference. Don’t think a few caring people can’t change the world - because they’re the only ones who ever do.

“Don’t hate the media. Become the media!”

- Jello Biafra (from The Dead Kennedys). Musician, Politician, Anarchist.

 

*You can listen online to Morello and Tankian’s radio show at www.kpfk.org or visit the website www.axisofjustice.org to download the shows in MP3 format from the archives. Otherwise, subscribe and listen via Pod cast (the link is on the website.)

You can find more out about the progress Live 8 is making at http://www.live8live.com/datareport/

Information about Parihaka and the Peace Festival is available at www.parihaka.com

 

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